Sorted!

Well, that went well. Plenty of action, anyway. No more big piles of paper.

Plenty of small piles, though – so many that my spare room has all but disappeared. My other half looked in at one point and commented – a little tactlessly, I felt:

Thought you were supposed to be tidying up! That bin’s still empty.

I explained how some of the piles were moving closer and just awaited a final check to see if there was anything – a pleasing turn of phrase, the merest germ of a good idea – that might save them from being pulped. And then there were those pieces that weren’t much good but had nostalgia appeal … little poems I wrote to stave off the crushing boredom of exam supervision back in the day, slightly inebriated dialogues written late at night when I should have been getting my beauty sleep, hastily scribbled accounts of incomprehensible dreams I’d woken from … and there, in a pile all its own, my historical novel whose narrator’s heavy dialect made its eighty-thousand words well-nigh unreadable.

That thing? You’ll never get round to doing anything with it. Unless it’s a comic short story about a bloke who reckons he’s a writer.

When she stopped laughing, I told her it wasn’t a bad idea. I’m well known for my stoical acceptance of mild adversity. Don’t know how I’d go in a real catastrophe but that, perhaps fortunately, is for the future.

29 March, at the earliest …

Actually, anything rather than recycle something I spent the best part of five years researching and writing! One of these days, you never know, I could get my second wind and turn it into a smash-hit stage-musical or a block-buster movie-scenario. Laugh all she likes, bless her, she’d be happy enough to sip exotic cocktails on our luxury yacht moored in Monaco or Cannes …

She left, still chuckling, perhaps planning her own best-seller. Perhaps not.

My Walter Mitty moment passed and I gazed despondently at all the paper covering the carpet and single bed like giant wedding confetti. My own plan, to pass all these rough drafts through the eagle eye of my hastily-devised list of aesthetic principles, was in tatters. Night was gathering and I’d got nowhere.

Time was of the essence. I had to act and act fast or I would be crying myself to sleep in the spare room surrounded by the appalling evidence of my own failure.

Yes, time was ticking by. No last-ditch flight to Brussels for me. It was either all in the bin or else back into big piles as if nothing had ever happened. Was I a complete and utter waste of space?

And then, in a blinding flash, it came to me …

The fault lay in my plan, of course! It had been too hasty. My red lines were far too rigid. Or else far too pink and hopelessly vague. And as for that ludicrous catch-all conditional at the end, what fool would devise a set of rules which ended with Rules are there to be broken?

It would have beggared belief if I hadn’t already known what an idiot I was. But there was no time to be lost. I had to come up with an alternative set of aesthetic principles and fast! However, too much of my intellectual energy – such as it was – had been frittered away trying to decide whether old scribblings were Almost Finished or Barely Begun or Half-Baked But Could Cook Through or Good In Parts or even Patchy But Full Of Unfulfilled Potential. It didn’t help that my ability to judge was hopelessly inconsistent, veering between feverish delight and febrile despondency as my ego and id battled it out before a supremely indifferent superego.

As chance would have it (and any readers of this account who are still awake might hope) there was a deus ex machina in the form of one I’d prepared earlier – the ‘one’ in question being a set of aesthetic principles I’d devised for an epic poem about something or other which I’d never even begun – the ‘set’ in question having come to light while I’d been going through my papers but which, preoccupied as I was with the search for literary gold, went unrecognised for what it really was.

I’ll leave you with a copy, in case it’s of any assistance in your own fruitless searches, because I must take to my bed tout suite so that I can be up bright and early tomorrow morning. After all is said and done, who knows what a new day will bring?

Besides, my crystal ball’s down the mender’s …

  1.  First thought, best thought   (Ginsberg)
  2.  Intuition attains the absolute   (Bergson)
  3.  Unity in diversity   (Hegel)
  4.  Without contraries, no progress   (Blake)
  5.  The words must be irrefutable   (Orton)
  6.  Show don’t tell   (James)
  7.  Write the story only you know   (Fountain)
  8.  I write to find out what I didn’t know I knew   (Frost)
  9.  In art, the subject matter is nothing   (Maurois)
  10.  What then?  No then.   (Kafka)
  11.  Be true to the earth   (Nietzsche)
  12.  Re-enchant the world   (Brazilian eco-artist)
  13.  It is necessary to be absolutely modern   (Rimbaud)
  14.  Make it new   (Pound)
  15.  Liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order   (Proudhon)
  16.  Invent new values   (Nietzsche)
  17.  Forget yourself   (graffiti)
  18.  I is another   (Rimbaud)
  19.  See all beings in yourself and yourself in all beings and lose all fear (Eastern saying)
  20.  Only connect   (Forster)

PS  The above are paired – meant to be 10 of them but I couldn’t get the numbers right!

Bon nuit!

 

Image result for broken crystal ball

 

Image: America’s Survival

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Rummaging Through My Drawers

Since turning 70 a strange urge has come upon me.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to make an embarrassing personal confession! No, the urge I’m talking about is a desire to clear the decks of clutter and travel a little lighter into whatever time is left me.

Today I’ve been going through boxes in my spare room, rifling through folders of stuff I wrote years ago for fun. I was looking for things to recycle, in both senses of the word – ideas that could be reworked and junk I could bung in the bin.

After some inconsequential paper-shuffling I came to a slightly shame-faced conclusion. I wasn’t yet ready to decide what was worth keeping and what really deserved pulping. So I sat down and scribbled a quick list of, er, aesthetic principles that might help me sort out the wheat from the chaff.

  1.   Make it modern  (Arthur Rimbaud)
  2.   Make it new  (Ezra Pound)
  3.   Be kind to your mind, write from the heart
  4.   Be true to the earth  (Friedrich Nietzsche)
  5.   The words must be irrefutable  (Joe Orton)
  6.   Regard cliché and genre as portals
  7.   Write about what you don’t know
  8.   Don’t waste words, jump to conclusions  (graffiti on a hermit’s cave-wall)
  9.   Forget yourself  (graffiti I saw on a walk)
  10.   Rules are there to be broken

Not too bad for starters! I’m going to sleep on that and have another go tomorrow, doing a little every day until the paper-pile is processed – one way or the other. And who knows, some may pop up on here? I could do with some new inspiration, even if it’s sometimes rather old hat.

Any coincidences, of course, are serious contenders for inclusion.

Here’s one. The CD I’m listening to at the moment was plucked at random from my sizeable collection – how else to explore its full variety? – and connects with an old poem of mine that came to light while rummaging through my drawers (Ooh, missus!). That album – Jug of Love by the little-known Mighty Baby, who were previously called The Actionwas also the focus of the poem, copied below:

follow your star, baby

in '69 a British band  
          saw Gram play  
with the Byrds - the lads
          were blown away -
that music gave them
          license 
(such lyrics, songs and
          harmony!)
to sing like angels and
          play like little devils
just like The Grateful Dead
          or Spirit or The Doors -
a course of action with
          a load of perils
but what a gas and
    what a mighty cause!


they put their heads
          together one last time
and made them there a
          picturesque swansong
(such harmonies, such
          tunes, such lovely rhymes!)
so deftly did they tread
          no foot was wrong -
their jug of love was full
          though not their pockets
and so this mighty baby
            missed the rockets!

Rabbiting On Again

Words.
No shortage, is there?
Words, words.
Dictionaries and thesauruses are full of them.
Words, words, words.
Airwaves are abuzz with them.
Words, words, words, words.
Persuaders, hidden or otherwise, bend our ears and break our spirits.
Words, words, words, words, words …

And so, before contributing a further fourpenny-worth to the existing word-mountain, let’s pause a moment to consult two world-renowned authorities on the higher arts of human communication … Chas ‘n’ Dave … whose cheeky erudition goes some way to excuse a whiff of political incorrectness:

You got more rabbit than Sainsburys … honest to goodness, has a better line of poetry ever been written? And if it has, might it have come from the pen of this cheerful geezer?

Talking in Bed

Talking in bed ought to be easiest,
Lying together there goes back so far,
An emblem of two people being honest.
Yet more and more time passes silently.

Outside, the wind’s incomplete unrest
Builds and disperses clouds in the sky,
And dark towns heap up on the horizon.
None of this cares for us. Nothing shows why

At this unique distance from isolation
It becomes still more difficult to find
Words at once true and kind,
Or not untrue and not unkind.

by Philip Larkin

Putting two and two together – and probably coming up with five! – it appears that too much rabbit and related background noise from outside can drown out the delicate inner promptings that allow for meaningful human communication. And if you’ll forgive the comparison of blogging into the blank aether with talking in a darkened bedroom, you may also accept the notion that uncertainty about reception can make it hard to string words together online.

As a little kid I had an invisible friend. I only ever confided in him while sitting on the toilet. I called him Naughty Man and his supposed worldly wisdom must have made him an ideal audience for my secret confidences. Perhaps I was aware that the real people around me could only take so much. Communication breakdown begins early and always remains a possibility, which is probably why I (and, may I suggest, we?) need art to bridge the gap. And comedy. Both bring perspective.

Here are some more rabbits if you have the stamina, though a minute or three might be enough to give you the idea!

Unsettling, isn’t it? That bloke Kafka hardly knew what he’d started, shuffling off his mortal coil before most of his work was published and after leaving strict instructions that it should all be burnt!

It’s easy to view the wind out there as cold and unforgiving. So it’s a comfort to know that people whose talents I admire and even envy can also struggle to express themselves. But where I whisper into a zephyr, in the intimacy of a personal blog, they often have to shout into a maelstrom.

Image result for joni mitchell quote on music corporations

Another musician-turned-painter was Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart. The short film that follows offers a great insight into what made him tick as an artist – it’s also, at least to my ear, hilariously funny. The wobbly footage shouldn’t impair enjoyment too much.

He dedicates his music to animals and children. How cool is that? If I’d known about Captain Beefheart as a kid, it would certainly be him I’d have confided in! He would have known all about the glory of words as well as understanding their limitations.

Hmm, maybe there’s a connection …

Unsocial Climbing – a story in 100 words

You and I, my friends, we stand side-by-side. Others, envious of our beautiful bond, seek to divide us. Look, they shriek, that gulf between my wealth and your poverty!

Don’t let them worry you. Turns out we’re on the same ladder, different rungs is all. Up here it’s raining golden eggs, believe me! Stick around and pick my brain on how to climb good. Things they don’t tell you.

Like they give some folk that can’t climb a helping hand. You elbowed out while these raid the nest. Silent majority won’t squeak, they reckon.

They reckoned without me. Your voice.

 

Image result for jack and the beanstalk

 

Image: Math Tutoring & Learning Centers | Mathnasium

Stimulus: majority, raid and brain from https://randomwordgenerator.com/

Another story in 100 words: Regeneration

For her fifth birthday she got a corner of the garden, a little bed of her very own. She emptied a seed-packet on the glistening earth and rushed out next morning, expecting to see a crop of beautiful flowers.

Hopes dashed, she’d just discovered nature’s way – left to time, all things come to fruition.

Now older, seasoned, she wonders at toddler-tantrums from so-called grown-ups still screaming for the-moon-on-a-stick – her tomorrow, theirs today?

Impatient again, she watches seeds of protest shoot across her shining screen and rushes out to a blossoming of banners and bright futures planted afresh in youthful minds.

 

Image result for uk school environment strike

 

Image: The Guardian

Stimulus: crop, left and bed from https://randomwordgenerator.com/

Couch!

A story in 100 words including plant, consultation and pardon which were taken from https://randomwordgenerator.com/

 

Seat?

No.

As you wish. What’s the problem?

Don’t you know?

Not until you’ve told me.

I’ve paid a small fortune for this. You’re supposed to tell me what’s wrong.

You have trouble confiding in people.

Now you’re trying to plant ideas.

You mistrust others.

Trust is earned. So far you’ve done nothing to justify that exorbitant consultation fee.

Fully refundable in hopeless cases.

Washing your hands of me already, eh?

No, of course not, but I need you to work with me.

And in recompense for my active participation, you would give me a sizeable discount on your services …

Pardon?

 

Image result for psychiatrist's couch

 

Image: Art.com

Trial of the Trail

Here’s a 100 word story which I decided had to include the first 3 words that came up on https://randomwordgenerator.com/ – the words were bet, deputy and lose.

 

We creep in fear and single-file through thick jungle with no choice but trust our navigation to chosen leaders. Night falls and the rearmost urge us onward; we barely notice it’s boggier underfoot. Those furthest forward slow fastest and soon we’re a milling mob.

Uphill, tangled undergrowth; downhill, sunlight through trees. Lead us, we cry, trampling over abandoned machetes.

Each of us, whether demoted or promoted deputy, shares this democracy of incompetence – a bet on survival, ours to lose.

Nightbirds shriek and we stampede towards retreating day. Suddenly chest-deep in quicksand, we hear the crack of metal on wood.

 

 

Image result for jungle

 

Image: Discover Magazine Blogs